Kushagra Rawat: Swimming sensation in it for the long haul

Following five gold medals at the Asian Age Group Swimming Championships, Rawat was adjudged the best swimmer in the men’s open category.

Kushagra was initiated into swimming by his parents to provide relief from his troubles with asthama.   -  PTI

Ahead of the Asian Age Group Swimming Championships, Kushagra Rawat’s wasn’t the most eye-catching of names. But such was his performance that by the end of the competition he had forced people to sit up and take notice.

Following five gold medals, including a complete sweep of the middle and long distance freestyle events, he was adjudged the best swimmer in the men’s open category. “I was not sure about the golds but I was sure about my performance,” said the 20-year-old. “The meet has been good for me and I am happy about my timings. But I feel I can do better.”

Painstaking effort

Kushagra was initiated into swimming by his parents to provide relief from his troubles with asthama. Since he couldn’t sprint as well as the others, he had to take to long-distance swimming. He struggled initially, but seems to be loving the grind now.

“You have to be prepared to bear the pain. My previous coach Peter Carswell used to say ‘if you want to be a good swimmer you have to do 75 to 80 km a week in order to maintain the aerobic levels’. It’s a lot of work.”

In the past one year, the Delhiite has consistently bettered his timings. After clocking 8.16.59s in 800m freestyle at the 2018 Senior Nationals, he improved to 8:14.21 at the Khelo India games.

At the Thailand Age Group Championships in Bangkok in April, he became the first Indian to make the B-standard for Tokyo 2020 with a 8:07.99 before reducing it to 8:07.29 at the Singapore National championships.

After clocking 8.16.59s in 800m freestyle at the 2018 Senior Nationals, Rawat improved to 8:14.21 at the Khelo India games.   -  SUDHAKARA JAIN

 

Healthy rivalry

Through this period, he also developed a healthy rivalry with the teenaged Advait Page, who, with a stupendous 8:00.76, had beaten him to the gold in Singapore.

“We always push each other in order to get our personal bests. I love racing against him. He does negative splits (a faster second half) which I can’t do. So I try to take the lead in the first 400m. The competition is great and it drives me.”

Kushagra had hoped that Page would race in Bengaluru but it wasn’t to be as the latter had moved to the United States on a sports scholarship. “I wish Advait was here. I got much better time [in Singapore] because with competition you go much faster. But I talk to him everyday and whenever either of us does a bad timing, we always motivate each other. My goal is now to go under 8 [minutes] by the end of the year and work towards being in the Olympics by 2024.”